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NC AHEC Program Top Rated in Primary Care Assistance

 

NC AHEC Program Top Rated in Primary Care Assistance

Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem, NC– As part of an effort to modernize the nation’s health care system through health information technology, the NC Area Health Education Centers Program (NC AHEC) via its nine regional AHECS was recently recognized as one of the two top programs in the nation that help primary care providers use this technology to improve outcomes.  The Northwest AHEC of Wake Forest School of Medicine covers 17-counties in the NW corner of our State.

The AHEC program is in the third year of a federal contract as a regional extension center (REC) for health information technology (HIT). NC AHEC currently works with more than 1,100 primary care practices and over 3,900 providers across North Carolina, providing assistance in the selection, implementation and use of HIT. 
 
A major goal of this effort is to improve health outcomes through the “meaningful use” of this technology through three stages. Stage 1 use focuses on functionalities that support the electronic capture of data and allowing patients to receive electronic copies of their own electronic health record (EHR). The Stage 2 (MU2) rules focus on increasing standards-based health information exchange between providers and with patients. Stage 3 documents improved outcomes.
 
“As a culmination to National Health IT week (September 10-14, 2012) NC AHEC was named a winner of the MU2 challenge by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for HIT. Two of the 62 regional extension centers in the country were recognized for innovative programs that used stage 1 meaningful use as a mechanism for practices to achieve excellent health outcomes for chronically ill patients. NC AHEC’s work in diabetes management was particularly noted,” said Samuel Cykert, MD, associate director for medical education and clinical director of the NC AHEC REC.
 
“Many providers are already seeing how meaningful use of health IT like EHRs can help to improve outcomes and result in efficiencies, such as those who are working with NC AHEC,” said National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM. “Through the use of EHRs and features like clinical decision support and point of care reminders, the positive impact on quality of care has been significant.
 
NC AHEC has incorporated quality improvement and medical home services into the culture of practice systems, which has provided additional benefits that, translate into even larger improvements in preventive and chronic care while substantially lowering costs. 
 
As an example, Yadkin Valley Community Physicians worked with Northwest AHEC to extract chronic illness quality measures from their EHR and translate them to a run chart. These run charts simply graphed the percentage of patients who use tobacco each month that met control parameters for the most clinically impactful care measures. As part of workflow redesign, nurses helped identify patients in need of tobacco cessation counseling.  Using population management principles, EHR data, evidenced-based guidelines in EHR templates, and a commitment to patient management, Yadkin Valley Community Physicians improved their rate of applying tobacco cessation counseling to tobacco dependant patients.
 
The NC AHEC Program Office is based in the UNC School of Medicine and administers the REC through nine regional AHECs across North Carolina.
 
One of the nine regional AHECs administering the REC is Northwest AHEC of Wake Forest School of School of Medicine.  “As of September 27, 2012, the Northwest AHEC Practice Support Team (PST) is working with 101 practices in our seventeen county catchment area,” stated Christopher Jones, MHA, assistant director of the Northwest AHEC Technology Outreach Center.  “Of the 462 primary care providers we have worked with during the last two years, 356 have made the transition from paper charts to a certified electronic record system.  Of these, 54 have completed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Meaningful Use incentive program.  We are very proud of the practices in our region who have worked diligently to adopt Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software into their practices to reduce costs and to contribute to the improvement of the quality of health care throughout the state of North Carolina.”

 

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